Like most New Englanders there’s not a lot in the way of college sports in my life. I do try and remedy that by flicking on a game here or there. Tournaments always draw my attention. Tournaments that feature some prominent NHL prospects more so. New York Rangers prospect Chris Kreider, Chicago BlackHawks Sophomore Kevin Hayes, and Boston Bruins blueliner of the future Tommy Cross headlined for the counts of the Conte Forum.

The visitors from Umass Amherst were a little lighter on NHL prospects. The final count for NHL prospects on the rosters was nine for Boston College and one for UMass Amherst. Teamwork, good coaching, and heart are more important in hockey than in any other sport. In the the first two periods the Boston College dominated play, aided by a five minute major to Steven Guzzo of UMass in the early first period.

The best player of the game was not a however a player who had their name called in the NHL draft. It was wasn’t even a member of the Eagles. Manapalan New Jersey’s Kevin Boyle stood between the pipes for the Minutemen. He was all UMass needed to make it a game at 6 foot 1 he’s smaller than the current trend towards gigantic goalies in the NHL, but about the same size as the last three men to win the Vezina, Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller and Martin Broduer. With an average goalie the game would have been out of hand by the end of the first period as the Eagles kept UMass hemmed in for most of the major and then rest of the period as well.

The third period belonged to Boyle and two other UMass players. Don Cohoon took his best skaters and barred them from the bench. Michael Marcou and Joel Hanley probably put in over twelve minutes a piece in the third period, after taking regular shifts in the first and second. In their own zone they got to pucks first and got them out. In the offensive zone their passing and puck protection was key. With just a little more luck, or Guzzo not getting tossed for hitting from behind minutes into the game Boyle, Marcou and Hanley would have stood equal to or better than all the NHL prospects on the other side.

Final score Boston College Eagles 3 – UMass Amherst MinuteMen 2.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Players:

  • that Evgani Malkin would lead the league in points while playing 7 games less than Stamkos who was second, and 8 less than Henrik Sedin
  • Patrice Bergeron would be out producing Joe Thornton, and neither would be an All Star
  • Ilya Kovalchuk would average 9 seconds less time on ice per game than Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty
  • Michael Del Zotto who spent half of last season in the AHL would have more PPTOI than Sidney Crosby’s total ice time
  • Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, Dwayne Roloson and Martin Broduer would all be 40th or lower on the save percentage leader board
  • Scott Hartnell who’s previous high for powerplay goals is 10 would be second in the NHL in them with 11 through 46 games
  • rookie Adam Henrique would lead the NHL in shorthanded goals
  • Brandon Sutter would have more shorthanded goals than Patrick Kane has powerplay goals

Teams/League:

  • The Northwest Division would have four teams with negative goal differentials but the division leader would be sixth in points
  • Chicago and Los Angeles would be the last two teams not to allow an empty net goal
  • Ottawa and Chicago would both be among the five most scored against five on five and both would be within two points of their division lead
  • three division leaders; The Rangers, the Panthers, the Red Wings would not lead their division in goals for
  • despite the leagues best efforts at parity, the 12 teams with an even or positive goal differential (301) would have a cumulative goal differential essentially equal to the 18 team with a negative differential (302) .
  • despite all the jabbering about one conferences being stronger than the other, in goal differential they would have an equal split
  • only the Edmonton Oilers would have a losing record when leading after one period
  • the secret to beating the Toronto Maple Leafs would be letting them outshoot you: their winning percentage is  .350
  • the “dirty” Boston Bruins would have the exact same number of misconducts as the “clean” Vancouver Canucks

While there are numerous stars not going to the All Star game because like Kris Letang or Jordan Eberle they are injured or like Lidstrom or Selanne they declined, there are some players who didn’t make it simply because they were deemed less entertaining than players who are better than them this year. I know most people who follow the NHL closely think (not without justification) that the All Star Game is indeed a farce, and I’m among them, but the skills competition and other events are a lot of fun and that’s why I’d like to see some of them go. Some as participants on the ice, and well, a few others just because.

Radim Vrbata has 21 goals for the Coyotes, which puts him ahead of Daniel Sedin, he’s also got five powerplay goals, and has actually scored shorthanded, something  Sedin has yet to do in his eleven seasons.

Patrice Bergeron, more points than Alex Ovechkin, has won in the playoffs, plays in all situations and owns a cup clinching goal.

James Neal, burst on to the scene this year with Crosby out of action and carried the team through the first third of the season, with 21 goals only five players have scored more.

Scott Hartnell, love him or hate him he’s having a great season. With 19 goals he’s got more than Ovechkin, Seguin, and Alfredsson who will all be there.

Kris Versteeg, the now well traveled winger has taken his talents to southbeach Sunrise and parlayed them into more points than at least half a dozen of the names on the roster, and he’s a great rapper.

Loui Eriksson see all the reasons above for any of these forwards. He’s kinda a big deal.

John Carlson is hands down the most well rounded defenseman on the Washington Capitals, his numbers are as good as Lidstroms and he’s got a much less defensively sound team around him.

Jared Cowen, despite the hectare of guys playing in Ontario already should be there, either as a Young Star, or full fledged All Star. The latter is a stretch, but no more than some of the players actually named.

Mike Smith is 8th in overall sv%, only two of the guys ahead of him have played nearly as many games as his 33, and Carey Price is 24th on that list.

One of the things that could liven up the event would be having a few players take the place of officials, and do the judging, interviews and commentary on the game and skills.

Shawn Thornton and Paul Bissonnette spring to mind as the perfect garrulous guys to cover the skills competitions and provide color commentary during the game.

Despite some dippy coach who taints things with his mouth wanting him anywhere but in his locker room, Sean Avery would be an unparallelled choice to interview arriving players, coaches and officials on the runway. He can talk the game, the players and the fashion and do all three naturally.

As the ultimate on ice officials; Brad Marchand and Ryan Miller. Neither is a bit shy about sharing their opinion, and (assuming any) the calls they made could be quite engaging. As an added bonus of Marchand being in the building him and Versteeg could have a free style battle.

Official Astrologer: None other than Ilya Bryzgalov.

One thing the NHL has proven is that its not possible to predict where it will be year over year, and sometimes week to week. There have however been a few constants in the NHL over the past few years. Number one goaltenders do shift over time, with one or two losing their grip on the starting job each season, sometimes never to regain it, in other cases pulling themselves back into the saddle in time for the playoffs. I don’t think I can recall a year where crease chaos has been so prominent and so high profile.

For more than a generation Martin Brodeur has been the standard by which other goaltenders were measured. He’s arguably the greatest goaltender of all time. Vezinas, Stanley Cups, he’s got those. More minutes played than any other goaltender, he’s got that too. No full season under a .900 sv% in a career stretching back to the early 90’s. Until that  is this season. The savior of this years season is likely to be Brodeur’s even older nominal backup Johan Hedberg. The career backup is not just having a career year, he’s out performing Brodeur by a large enough margin that it’s unlikely that anyone other than Brodeur would see a start until he was injured or to worn down by the schedule to keep it up. Brodeur (.879)is currently ranked 38th for save percentage leaders, Hedberg (.920) is 19th with each having played in 13 games.

The Minnesota Wild are working their way towards a genuine goal-tending controversy of their own. Not because their starter Niklas Backstrom has performed poorly but because he’s suffered his second injury of the year. In his absence, and on rest days for the 33 year old Finnish goaltender the backup has upstaged him. Stealing the spotlight from a goaltender with a .929 sv% and 2.15 GAA isn’t precisely easy. Harding has done so. With a .938 sv% and 1.96 GAA against some of the best of the NHL, including three games against Detroit, and two against the St Louis Blues who are currently tied for the Central Division lead. Both are above average keepers, but with more than five million dollars in difference in their salaries one wonders when the uproar will begin in the Twin Cities.

Once upon a time there was a goaltender who represented his country in his home arena on the largest of international stages for the pride of his homeland. This hero brought home the goods. He went on to lead his team to the Stanley Cup finals. Along the way his numbers were better in both the regular season and playoffs than the two goaltenders who last hoisted the Stanley Cup. He ran into a better goaltender and was saddled with a less determined team. The next season Roberto Luongo (among many others) got off to a slower than usual start, and was slid aside while still dubbed the number one guy in favor of his backup. Cory Schnieder’s .930 and 2.12 would demand a higher than usual percentage of starts even if Luongo were performing closer to his career average of .919 sv% and 2.54 GAA, and not reporting in with .892 and 3.05. The fact that Luongo’s contract stretches over the event horizon and into the next decade makes this a drama almost distracting enough to ignore the rest of the rest of the teams play.

In any other season a sentence that started with “Brian Elliot is leading the league in…” would almost certainly end with something possibly deserved and not especially flattering. In the Bizzaro World that belongs to the bullies of the bluepaint this year, it would have to end with “both save percentage and goals against average, by a wide margin.” This has led to Elliot to displace Halak under the now Hitchcock led St Louis Blues to be tied for the division lead. His 10 wins in 11 starts are made even more stunning by not having given up more than two goals in any game. Even when he eventually reports back to the Milky Way galaxy, if not the solar system it’s unlikely the pending UFA will have trouble collecting a much larger paycheck next season.

Perhaps the most surprising fall from grace of any number one goaltender belongs to the man most responsible for the Buffalo Sabres being in any way competitive the last half dozen seasons. Ryan Miller won the Vezina two seasons ago. This year he’s suffered a couple injuries, one of disputed cause, and certainly some severely abraded pride. While a .909 sv% isn’t exactly shameful, his 2.86 GAA has caused some to look askance at the former silver medalist. Jhonas Enroth had to be considered even less unlikely than Elliot to end up with a large percentage of the workload coming into the season. At this point he’s fueled calls for Ryan Miller to be moved elsewhere. In an age where (not quite justifiably) hulking goaltenders are all the rage, even more so than the slight Miller the downright tiny, rookie Enroth is defying the trend towards linebackers as net minders. The 5 foot 10 inch 166lb Stockholm native has held opponents hostage with a  sv% of .925 and a GAA of 2.32.

It’s still early in the season, and goaltending is difficult to predict in any given year, this years waffleboard warriors are making it the most entertaining position to watch this season.

With six minutes and fifty seconds left in the first period there was body contact resulting in a two minute minor penalty between left winger Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins and Vezina winning All Star goalie Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres. It was well outside the crease, and clearly none of the player on the ice from the Sabres thought it was anything exceptional as they had 47 minutes to respond, and did not do so. Ryan Miller would stay in net after the contact. In the second period he would play all twenty minutes, and surrender two more even strength goals. At the start of the third period Jhonas Enroth would take over crease duties. This is not the first time Enroth has replaced Miller in net this season.

Initially when Miller was pulled it was reported as a possible neck injury. After the game, a focused and angry looking Miller stated he had only stuck around to call Milan Lucic a particular four letter word. The next morning, it was reported that Miller had a concussion and was out, but not put on the injured reserve. This is a bit curious for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that Miller has a concussion history. We’ve all seen players who have had concussions in the past suffer a new one. The reaction from the player is immediate. It’s obvious to everyone what their chief worry is. Miller on the other hand played twenty-seven more minutes, or about an hour and fifteen minutes real time.

This alone isn’t enough to proclaim something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but let’s take a look at these other oddments, including the goalie rotation that has taken place in the Buffalo crease this season:

  • The Buffalo Sabres are one of the highest spending teams in the NHL. Miller’s contract is for over six million dollars.
  • The Sabres had less than $52,000 in cap space available for the year, not counting LTIR money.
  • With Miller not on the LTIR, the team is seriously inhibiting their flexibility later in the year, when you note the injury riddled history of several skaters this becomes increasingly curious.
  • Both Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff have made bellicose statements that bring up the question of similar behavior by their team with very little if any concern expressed for their own player.
  • Terry Pegula who never seems to be at a loss for words has made no public statements.
  • One major difference between placing someone on the LTIR and shorter term designations is the ability to activate them in short period of time.
  • While Enroth has been announced as the goaltender for Tuesday’s game, it’s likely given the rotation, that even had their been no contact between Miller and Lucic that would have been his start anyway.

Obviously we don’t know what the inner workings of the Buffalo Brain Trust are, but one huge risk factor for leaving Miller day to day is the chances he will push himself too hard to come back. Marc Savard is like Ryan Miller prone to popping off and the mouth, and of similar age. No one can say definitively that Miller will push himself back to soon from the injury the team claims, but without setting up a firm timeline where game play is out of the question it’s impossible not to speculate on the seriousness of the issue, how seriously the medical and managerial staff take the injury that is claimed, and how much value any or all of them put on the long-term health and safety of Ryan Miller.

 

We all know the NHL’s on ice officials frequently make questionable calls and some that are just plain wrong. This is to a certain extent excusable. The guys in stripes and skates have maybe a second and usually much less to decide if something warrants time in the box or a removal from the game, and only their own vision to rely on. While no one likes it, it’s hard to come up with a better solution that doesn’t turn the game into a football like parody of free flowing action.

The gentlemen in suits and ties on the other hand have no such excuse. Off ice officials get it wrong at least as often, and with far less excuse. The people responsible for the long term direction of the of the NHL, who’s choices and attitudes trickle down into minor, college and high school hockey have set one standard and followed it for years. As a player you are either on the gold list of promoted and protected players, or its open season on your career and wallet.

One of the most notable examples of this is:

That’s clearly a third man in. The NHL rulebook has a segment on that:

46.16 Third Man In – A game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress except when a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation. This penalty is in addition to any other penalties incurred in the same incident.

This rule also applies to subsequent players who elect to intervene in the same or other altercations during the same stoppage of play.

I’m sure it will surprise everyone to note Crosby’s record remains free of suspensions.

At some point in history the league office decided that off ice, non criminal behavior that euphemised a theoretical intimate relationship between two consenting adults was offensive enough to warrant an indefinite suspension. Here’s that now famous clip:

If we’re going to assume that what was merely implied in that video was somehow worse than striking someone in a manner clearly prohibited by the leagues rules and good sportsmanship than I suppose you can make the case that James Wizniewski’s suspension for the following act of pantomime is objectionable.

While I suppose if one is low minded they can infer the obscene content in this, one could also view it as reminder to Avery that he might need to brush his teeth, or perhaps it was an offer of a post game popsicle.

But of on or off ice implied and euphemistic obscenity is suspend-able, where is the review of Ryan Miller’s blatant vulgarity? He clearly and in front of the international media states he stuck around after a game in which he put up a poor performance, was pulled, and was arguably outplayed by his back up (again) specifically to call another player an expletive. Hours had passed between the incident he’s referencing and his speaking to the media. Unlike Wisniewski’s gesture, this was not done in the heat of the moment. It was done with malice aforethought and clearly warrants at least the same level of discipline.

But fear not Sabre’s fans, the NHL will protect it’s stars even when their teammates won’t. If will show that it’s marketing budget is far more important than it’s moral bottom line. The NHL will one more time overlook one of it’s premier players crossing a line it created and do so without even batting an eyelash, or making even the slightest comment. It knows what it is doing, and clearly some players are more equal than others.

Once more into the bottle. The last of the Boston Bruins divisional rivals take to the ice against the knights of north station.  Among them are the Marchand sized Gerbe and Ennis, the Chara-lite Myers and former linemate Patrice Bergeron the always enigmatic Brad Boyes.

Disclaimer: Even if your participation in this game is limited to drinking water something stupid is likely to happen.  No one actually cares what that stupid is since it will be your own damn fault, but if it should happen to get 500 or more votes on one of our favorite sites definitely send us a link, if it involves some hotties send pics too.

 

Take One Drink:

Any time the words “goalie rotation” are uttered.

Whenever the Bruins and Sabres last playoff meeting is mentioned.

If Lindy Ruff’s tenure is mentioned.

An injury graphic is shown.

Each time someone draws a size comparison among the largest or smallest players is made.

Take Two Drinks:

The changes in Buffalo are shown or mentioned.

A player, even one who isn’t Vanek or Pomminville, leaves the ice with an injury.

Boyes having been a Bruin or Paille having been a Sabre is brought up.

Goalie controversy is used to describe the crease competition in either city.

Any summer pickups by either team are mentioned: Ehrhoff, Regehr, Corvo.

Take Three Drinks:

Whenever you feel like it.

If a comparison is made between Rask and Thomas and Miller and Enroth.

Rookie Luke Adam is compared to Nugent-Hopkins.

The word expectations is tacked onto any mention of performance.

If a player who left the ice with an injury returns.

Take Four Drinks:

If at any point there have been more penalties than shots on goal in the period.

The record for either coach is mentioned.

The record for any of the goalies against the other team is mentioned.

The standings are shown.

There is a fight involving more than 3 million dollars in salary.

Skip a drink:

If Jack Edwards fails to apply the word “rocket” to any shot by Boychuk.

No coach is interviewed during a stoppage or intermission.

Someone breaks a stick.

It’s been a pretty solid week to be a Bruins fan. They’ve outscored their opponents three to one this month. They have four wins in a row, Two U’s Two K’s Two Points has come together twice this month. Zach Hamill made his season debut and NHL debut as a right winger and had nine and a half quality NHL minutes playing with Jordan Caron and Chris Kelly and looking the trio looked like a line that had played together for weeks.

How’d they win? Pretty easily. The Oilers game was probably the hardest of the four games to win. Not only were the Oilers the most resilient opponent and were able to throw completely different looks at the Bruins. The Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle line is very much a speed line, while you can’t call them floaters and retain any vestige of credibility, when Hall is the largest body on the line at 194 lbs you’re not facing the physical presence of Ryan, Perry, Getzlaf. Ryan Smyth and company are a much more physical line and more likely to park themselves in the crease and stay there to get the Mike Knuble style goals. When they were down two goal they didn’t stop pressing and managed to tie the score.  Probably the most entertaining game for the casual fan to watch in this nice little four game run.

Thank You Kessel was both the prediction and the reality against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a blow out for the Bruins, seven goals, most of them close together. Worse was the way the Leafs didn’t really try. Their skaters and goaltenders allowed seven goals on just twenty shots.  That’s even very nearly as vulgar as the Flyers and Lightning refusing to move either with or towards the puck the other night.

Coming up next is a game against the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres will be coming in off a game against the Senators. The Sabres find themselves facing the first goaltender controversy since the end of the Hasek era. Jhonas Enroth has stepped into the spotlight and in five games allowed just seven goals. Ryan Miller in his last start allowed five goals. Enroth is sporting an eye popping .952 save percentage and across his 10 appearances Miller has a pedestrian .913 and has gone 5 and 5 while Enroth’s record is unblemished.

Next week finishes two games that could be labeled “trap games” against the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets. The more immediate worry is the return of the injury bug. Andrew Ference is out for Saturday. Rich Peverely isn’t taking contact in practice. Paille is not even practicing. That’s a lot of minutes, particularly off the penalty kill which gets contributions from all three. Sliding into those roster slots have been Caron who has at least been with the team since camp, Zach Hamill who had a solid season debut, Steve Kampfer who hasn’t cracked the lineup in a while and Benoit Pouliot who essentially lost the battle to Caron for the 12th forward roster spot. That’s a lot of turnover, and how well it works, particularly against good teams remains to be seen.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

If i told you in September:

  • James Neal would be the Penguins leading scorer
  • Teemu Selanne would be leading the Anaheim Ducks is goals, assists, points and penalty minutes
  • The Edmonton Oilers would not just lead the Northwest Division, but have the stingiest defense in the NHL
  • rookie Senators defenseman Jared Cowen would lead the NHL in hits while averaging just 16:26 in TOI/G
  • The only team in the western conference to allow more goals than the Vancouver Canucks would be the Columbus Blue Jackets
  • that Dan Ellis, Brian Elliot, Al Montoya, and Devan Dubnyk would be well above Ryan Miller in save percentage
  • that Matt Cooke would have more goals through the Penguins first 15 games than suspensions and more points than penalty minutes
  • on 11/6 Tuukka Rask would have less appearances, less wins, and a worse goals against average than Rick Dipietro
  • of the four conference finalists the only one in a playoff spot on the first weekend of November would be the San Jose Sharks
  • the marquee-less Dallas Stars would be the first team to ten wins, own the conference lead, and that star studded New York Rangers would have less goals, a worse differential and
  • Vladamir Sobotka would enter play on Sunday with more assists than Ryan Kesler

would you have believed any of it?